It’s a good time to be a part of the National Basketball Association. With your two most storied teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, meeting in the finals you can just see the dollar bills flashing in commissioner David Stern’s eyes. Who cares which team wins – as long as the series go seven games and everyone makes more money, right?
By in large, the NBA is doing very well these days. Players aren’t rushing into the stands to throw down with the fans, referees aren’t wagering on games they’re calling and teams are once again capable of scoring more than 80 points a game. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas in which the game and the league couldn’t improve upon.
Don’t make Kobe Bryant the posterchild for the NBA. Call me crazy, but if I ran the league, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t market the NBA around a cancer who has never once given a shit about anyone but himself. That’s clear to 1) anyone who has heard what really went on in that Colorado hotel room, 2) saw the YouTube video of Bryant from earlier this year when he blasted rookie teammate Andrew Bynum for … um … being a rookie teammate and 3) Shaquille O’Neal. At the end of the day, he honestly doesn’t care who he steps on, as long as he wins. If he has to drop $10 million on another pink diamond for his wife, then so be it. He might be a great player on the court, but even then it takes him until almost the fourth quarter of game three to earn an assist. The last thing this world needs is young kids trying to emulate this prick – on or off the court.
Call traveling. We know you want LeBron James to be great, but let’s not make a mockery of the game we love so bad. At this point in his young career, referees let King James get away with so much that it only takes him three dibbles to go coast to coast on a basketball court.
Don’t take the Sonics away from Seattle. The home of Pearl Jam and Starbucks was awarded a basketball team in 1966, and the Sonics began their inaugural season the following season. Call me crazy, but more than 40 years of history tells me that they deserve to keep the franchise. If you want a team in Oklahoma City or wherever, that’s fine. But leave the Sonics alone.
Fix trades. When trades become more about a player’s “expiring contract” and less about the actual player, then there’s something wrong with the system. Nuf’ said.
Suspend players who flop. It’s embarrassing watching some of the best athletes alive resort to these kind of shenanigans, but I guarantee that if the league suspended floppers one game for every infraction this new trend would go away in a heartbeat. Otherwise, you’d see Manu Ginobli sitting out more games per year than notorious hothead Rasheed Wallace – all because Manu hits the deck like Hillary Clinton just ordered a hit on him every time he comes in contact with another player.
Ditch the WNBA. At this point, the only rational explanation why the league even admits the WNBA is still in existence would be David Stern’s ego. Let’s not forget, almost everything he’s done for the league has worked out (expanding from 23 to 30 franchises, televising games in more than 200 countries, making the league a ton of money globally). So I’m sure when he set out to help the NBA’s “special” little sister, he thought his name alone would put them on the map. Instead, what he got was an overwhelming “no thanks” from basketball fans who didn’t care if “she got game.”
And finally …
Make kids stay in college for at least two seasons. Just think about how much money O.J. Mayo would have if he were at USC for one more year. His parents would never have to work again, and NBA teams might (gasp!) actually be able to draft more than four or five players who could contribute during their rookie season.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter, and still doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.